Nokia N95 assessment

Jabber on my N95

I got a first-generation Nokia N95 two months ago. The Gadget Show rated it better than the iPhone in pure functionality. Ben Ward (and his commenters) have had some really serious problems, so I thought I’d give a hopefully more balanced view.

With that in mind, I’ve had a mobile phone for the last ten years and my favourites have all been Nokias which means that I’m very, very familiar with the Symbian OS. Thanks to JimH I was on the Early Access trial of Python for S60. All of this serves to show that I like to think I’m balanced but I’m probably not 🙂

Executive summary: The Nokia N95 is a great phone, but terribly terribly slow. If you get one, buy the newer Nokia N95 8GB which has a bigger screen, better battery life and obviously more memory.

I’ve now upgraded the firmware and the whole device is much, much snappier, including the previously ponderous camera

The good

The integrated WiFi means that I now use the podcasting support above texting, phonecalls, calendaring and taking photos. But it’s a poorly integrated application; for example the bundled WebKit-based browser supports RSS subscriptions but this list is separate from your podcast subscriptions and items are not interchangeable. This means it is very difficult to browse to a site which provides podcasts and then subscribe in a suitable application (the best route seems to be copy and paste of the URL). You can at least import and subscribe to an OPML file so you’re best off maintaining the list online somewhere, perhaps using something like and an rss2opml converter.

The TV-out is great and actually useful given the native mp4 support and free xvid player available.

Running Apache on your mobile phone is super-cool and would open some interesting possibilities if it didn’t murder your battery life.

Python support is good and getting better all the time. Most of the phone’s functions are available to scripts, making it quite straightforward to hack your phone, provided you can set up a decent develop/deploy/test cycle

My 3-branded X-Series N95 came with Skype and MS Live Messenger and a simple menu layout.

If you hurled it at someone hard enough, you could probably kill them.

The 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss lens is amazing but…

The bad

The 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss lens is amazing but slow beyond belief and pushes it very almost beyond utility.

As with most Nokia phones in the past five years they seem to have too many hardware designers. As Russ says, the dual-direction slide is a gimmick and the media buttons should be elsewhere. They would have had room for them if they hadn’t had so many redundant buttons on the existing design. When the slide is open for normal use and including the keypad, there are twenty-nine buttons available. Twenty-nine! I never even use one of the largest two (about which Russ says The “media key” is stupid and the media menu is stupid)! I say this every time, but Nokia need to drastically rethink their button strategy.

Connecting the phone to your PC via mini-USB does not charge it.

Some of Ben’s other criticisms are valid:

  • the “notes” app can’t be synced. The phone comes with no other text viewer or editor.
  • changing between profile and landscape views aren’t accelerometer based, despite there being one
  • the gallery application is a step backwards from the previous version found on devices like the 6630 (presumably because of the increased size per photo)

The indifferent

The GPS has been variable for me. Sometimes I get a fix within 30 seconds, othertimes it takes up to five minutes, which is clearly useless. Nevertheless, as a first-generation device with this functionality it makes a good first pass with excellent application support where the location will default back to that of the cell ID you’re connected to.

The iPhone has quite good overall usability, most other phones suck at usability and I’ve certainly got used to it.

Other criticisms seem to be unfounded:

  • text recipients can be chosen by typing their name in, you don’t have to browse
  • I can’t find a place outside of third-party apps where the number pad can’t be used for navigation
  • Each entry in the missed call list has an option “use number” which appears to reflect the number which called
  • the battery life is more or less what I’d expect from a handheld device running bluetooth, GPS, Wifi a digital camera and a phone.

There is a brand-new firmware release out today which claims to solve a number of these problems, but it requires you to completely wipe the internal memory and reinstall all your apps and reconfigure your phone. As one of the commenters on the AllAboutSymbian article says Imagine having to do a complete re-install every time Microsoft released a Service Pack. Eugh.

Parsing Atom with libxml2

Whilst trying to parse some Atom (my Blogger backup) with libxml2 I appear to have run into the same problem that Aristotle hit two years ago in XPath vs the default namespace: easy things should be easy, to wit: The story is that you can’t match on the default namespace in XPath.

>> import libxml2
>> doc = libxml2.parseFile("/home/pip/allposts.xml")
>> results = doc.xpathEval("//feed")
>> len(results)


Immediate potential solutions:

  1. XSLT my Atom document to add “atom:” to all my default-namespaced elements
  2. use an entirely different method of parsing
  3. remove the atom namespace declaration from the top of the file
  4. something else

Option 3 looks like the only sane route to take in this one-off job, but I’m quite surprised that I have to do it at all.

Actually, this turned out to be my fault – I was parsing two documents at the same time, one with a namespace declaration set correctly (for parsing my Atom file), and one with no namespaces set. I used the latter for my xpath query, which clearly didn’t work – many thanks to everyone who left a comment!

HOWTO download your Google Reader starred items

How to create a backup of your starred items in Google Reader, should the need ever arise:

A screenshot of the Google Reader settings page

  • Log in to Google Reader
  • Click ‘Settings‘ in the top-right of the window
  • Click the ‘Tags‘ tab
  • Check the “Your starred items” box
  • Click the “Change sharing…” dropdown box and select “public
  • Now click on ‘View public page‘ which has appeared to the right of “Your starred items” (this will open in a new window by default)
  • In the right-hand column there is a link to a feed. Right-click it and save it to disk.

Congratulations, you now have an Atom feed of your starred items to do with as you wish. With any luck it will even be valid.


So, my Google account is still disabled a week later and I still haven’t had a response to the two mails I’ve sent the accounts team. My blog was powered by Blogger. I’ve switched to WordPress and hope to import all of my old blog sometime this week (I’ll have to screen-scrape my own blog archives).

In related news I was using Gmail to power my email, but was using my own domain to forward it, so I’ve currently switched that to forward to my work account. Not having access to the past three years’ worth of emails is a pain, but not as much as having no address book, which is much worse than you might think.

I am still somehow logged in to Google Reader but have exported my feeds and am now running my own copy of Venus (lots of pruning to do which Google Reader was hiding from me – and that’s after removing all the dead feeds).

The blog uses the default WordPress theme. I’ll get that changed at some point but at the moment the priority is extracting all the data I can from the Google services which I still have access to and finding alternatives to things like Google Browser Sync.

I am not particularly pleased.

Guarding online banking

An image of the PINsentry tool

Apparently at the end of this month I’ll be sent a small tool to make my online banking more secure. It’s called PINsentry. As far as I, as a selfish user, can see it’s actually designed to make my online banking experience slower and limit it to one location at a time (unless I want to drag it around with me at all times).

The website does actually provide a list of FAQs but for some inexplicable reason it’s Flash-based so I can’t actually link to the one which says that if I don’t have my reader with me I can view my accounts and nothing more.

I’ll save any further comment until I’ve received it, but at the moment I’m not feeling particularly generous.